Bloodwater: The Dark Reality of Fish Farming In British Columbia

Bloodwater: The Dark Reality of Fish Farming In British Columbia

Photo Credit: CTV News

There’s no doubt about it: the image above is disconcerting.  Even without knowing exactly what’s going on, we can observe fish swimming around—yes—an approaching cloud of blood.

Knowing the facts behind this image will make you feel even more queasy.


Let’s start from the beginning.  As I’m sure many of you know, I’m from the province of British Columbia, Canada.  Our province is renowned for its beautiful landscapes, and in particular, our coastal waters.  However, these waters also have a dark side: fish farming.

There are two main types of fish farms: closed containment farming, and open-pen farming.  By and large, closed containment farming is fine for the environment, but on the other hand, open-pen farming has a number of major concerns.

You see, the majority of fish being raised in open-pen fish farms aren’t Pacific salmon.  They’re actually salmon shipped to the West Coast from the Atlantic Ocean for farming.  In these farms they are “domesticated”, so to speak, making them more docile.  In fact, according to National Public Radio, only about 1% of Atlantic salmon come from the wild.

Also, the same source cites the reason that Atlantic salmon are farmed in the Pacific instead of native fish: “Atlantic Salmon is a “favored species” to farm in cold marine waters because the species grows quickly and consistently, is resistant to disease, and is something people like to eat.”

That’s all fine and dandy, until you remember the fact that these fish farms aren’t perfect.  Just watch this drone footage of a fish farm in the Pacific Ocean that collapsed earlier this year (via CBC).

When these non-native species of salmon escape into the Pacific Ocean, they can interfere with the existing food chain or introduce diseases such as piscine reovirus, or PRV, that they have incurred through farming into the native population.  

Various organizations and indigenous groups have been fighting against open-pen fish farming for decades.  However, it has just been revealed in the last month that there is a whole other environmental danger associated with fish farming that the public didn’t even know about.

On November 27, B.C. photographer Tavish Campbell posted a disturbing video to his Facebook page.  He called it “Blood Water: BC’s Dirty Salmon Farming Secret”.

WARNING: Some viewers may find the following video disturbing.

It seems that Campbell has unveiled a whole new can of worms in the world of fish farming.  Not only can the process of fish farming be harmful, but as it turns out, the actual processing plants for these fish are spewing contaminated fish blood into the surrounding waters.

This is not good.

Following further analysis, samples of this “bloodwater” tested positive for a virus called piscine reovirus, or PRV.  Look familiar?  That’s right.  I wrote above that this is one of the diseases that spreads in open-pen farms and poses a risk to native salmon.  According to the Vancouver Sun, PRV causes heart and skeletal muscular inflammation (HSMI) in fish, making them weak – often too weak to even swim.  As a result, they are rendered more vulnerable to predators.

As a matter of fact, most salmon in open-pen farms carry PRV, making them a major risk to the rest of the fish in BC’s waters.  This disease was first discovered in Norway in 1999, among their own farmed Atlantic salmon population.  As stated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the number of cases in Norway has increased steadily since then, reaching its peak of 181 farm outbreaks in 2014.

We need to make sure that this problem is kept in check by the Canadian government, and sooner than we initially thought.  Let’s call upon the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, let’s call upon our environment minister and our Prime Minister, and let’s make sure that our fish farms are held to higher quality standards.

I’m going to do my part to fight B.C.’s bloodwater.

Will you join me?

-Asha M.

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